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Americans Hit Fresh Milestone in 2019 in Buying Stuff Online

Scott Lanman

(Bloomberg) -- Online shopping in the U.S. hit a new milestone in 2019, with a key metric surpassing every major category of brick-and-mortar stores except for big-ticket autos.

Nonstore retailers -- mostly electronic commerce -- posted 2019 sales of $778.4 billion, up 13.1% from the prior year and squeaking by the individual totals for the categories of food and beverage stores, restaurants and general-merchandise vendors, according to Commerce Department figures Thursday.

For the full year, it was the single biggest category among the retail report's 13 major sectors, outside of motor vehicle and parts dealers, which had $1.25 trillion in sales.

For December, nonstore retailers posted a 0.2% gain from the prior month but a whopping 19.2% increase from a year earlier, suggesting companies like Amazon.com Inc. had a solid holiday season.

Meanwhile, sales at department stores fell 0.8% last month and were down 5.5% for the full year.

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